Robert Ford, who covers the Royals for 610 Sports, writes that contrary to some fans’ opinions and to the chagrin of others, he’s not a Royals fan.
I replied that, while I like to see the Royals succeed, I don’t consider myself a fan. My response led to a lengthy Twitter discussion about why I’m not a fan of the Royals; some suggested I was a traitor for not unabashedly rooting for the Royals and others assumed I don’t care about the Royals if I’m not a fan of the team.
There’s a cardinal rule in sports reporting: No cheering in the press box. That’s why I could never be a sports reporter.
He explains his approach to the beat this way:
[M]edia who cover a team are less likely to speculate because they have a better idea of what’s going on. And, when they do speculate, it’s usually well-informed speculation based on their intimate knowledge of and on- and off-the-record access to a team and its key players. Unlike fans, media who cover a team every day are less likely to run hot and cold about a team or player’s performance because they usually have a better understanding of the big picture. If you are a fan of a team, covering that team every day will make you less of a fan and more of a shrewd observer.
That’s the way any beat should be covered. But for the life of me, I can’t quite grasp how a reporter who has covered a team – which is different than any other type of reporting – could not end up being a fan. Ford grew up a Mets fan; the Mets made him a baseball fan, which presumably inspired him to get into sports reporting. And when you pay attention to a team long enough, in my experience, that team grows on you.
I didn’t want to be a Cubs fan or a Royals fan, but I became one. I look at Bob Dutton, who covers the Royals for The Star, or Gary Bedore, the longtime KU basketball reporter at the Journal-World, or Paul Sullivan, the Chicago Tribune’s Cubs reporter, and I’m in awe that they remain bluntly impartial.
One on hand, yes, it makes for better journalism. On the other, wouldn’t it suck the fun out of the game?